Volcanologist at Odds With Japanese Regulators. Volcanoes Threaten Nuclear Reactors
Japan volcano

Last month, Japanese regulators concluded a pair of nuclear reactors near the Sendai nuclear power plant are safe from volcanic eruptions for the foreseeable future. A leading volcanologist says this prediction is impossible to make according to the Associated Press.

Toshitsugu Fujii, a professor at the University of Tokyo, says an eruption at one of the volcanoes surrounding the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan could impact the reactors there and potentially cause a nationwide disaster.

Japanese regulators are trying to appease public concerns after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster back in early 2011. Saying nuclear reactors are safe in an active volcanic zone is naive. But, regulators are trying to assuage public fears. This comes following the surprise eruption at Mount Ontake in central Japan in late September. That eruption stoked worries about volcanoes near nuclear reactors.

“It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years,” Fujii said. “The level of predictability is extremely limited.”

Earthquake eruptions can only be predicted a few hours in advance, maybe a day according to Fujii.

The Associated Press article highlights the danger to the Sendai reactors.

Studies have shown that pyroclastic flow from an eruption 90,000 years ago at one of the volcanoes near the Sendai plant in Kagoshima prefecture reached as far as 145 kilometers (90 miles) away, Fujii said. He said a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that is part of the larger Aira Cauldron, could easily hit the nuclear plant, which is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.

Japan’s government wants to restart the two Sendai reactors and any of the other 46 reactors in the country that are considered safe. The two Sendai reactors meet new safety requirements and are the first ones to be approved.

Government officials want to reestablish nuclear power because of its economic benefits, something Japan needs desperately. Nuclear power offers Japan a cheap way to power its country, compared to other energy sources.

Japan’s nuclear reactors will never be 100% safe. Especially with the number of volcanoes and fault lines surrounding the country. Fujii tells the AP the restarting of the reactors is for political reasons. I’m sure it is. But, it’s also an economic reason.

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